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twitterIsabella couldn’t wait to get back to the volunteer office and tweet. It had been a long day at her organization and 17 volunteers showed up at 5am to prepare packets, man booths, hand out water, snacks and awards at the annual Run for Awareness campaign. Staff members complimented her on the volunteers’ professionalism and how much they had contributed.

She thanked each volunteer as they helped with cleanup and then, thoroughly spent, she returned to her office where she shut the door and collapsed into her chair.  She then pulled out her phone, accessed her account, @IsabellaVolMgr77 and tweeted:

#VoteYesOnProp37 Just met a guy at our 5K He is organizing a 5K next year to support Prop37 more details later!

What you ask? What does this have to do with her volunteers? Exactly! See, Isabella is very passionate about an upcoming election issue in her community and she tweets about her support for proposition 37 frequently.

So, all right, big deal, what’s the harm? Well, prop 37 is a divisive issue in her town and half of the towns’ folks are strongly opposed to it. (which means half of her active volunteers and prospective volunteers could be put off by her sharing of support for this cause.)

In another part of town, Randy, a volunteer manager for a small start up charity checked his twitter account @RandyHelpforNeedyOrg and smiled. His last series of tweets were pretty clever he thought. His tweets were:
#firstdatesareevil Getting ready for first date. Perspiration stains on shirt oh no!
#firstdatesareevil Almost there, salmon on grill, I’m feeling flaky too!
#firstdatesareevil Burned the salmon, dropped a drink, I’m doomed!

Am I getting picky here? Maybe. Because our jobs require emotional intelligence, we can understandably view volunteers as friends, compatriots and even followers on social media. It’s easy to regale them with our personal lives and our passions because they look to us as their bosses. But how much do we really want to draw our volunteers into our personal lives and views?

I’ve noticed over the years that there is a segment of the volunteer population, albeit a small one, that really wants to operate on a strictly professional level. They are the volunteers who are not interested in my family, my funny mishaps or my secret passions. I take no offense, because it’s literally not personal. They’re the ones who discreetly roll their eyes in orientation when I get too “cutesy” and want me to stick to the professional task at hand.

But back to tweeting and social media. Is there a fine line that we walk between acting in a professional manner and allowing our warm, engaging personalities to still come through? Can Pro(professional) and Per(personal) ever be ProPer? Absolutely. Let’s look at some examples of Per (personal) tweets and ways to seize an opportunity to rephrase them for volunteers and therefore make them do double duty and more Pro (professional):

Per tweet: Sigh, 3 car accident made me late to work today.
ProPer Tweet: Accident made me late to work today, makes me appreciate all the vols who consistently show up on schedule!

Per tweet: Hey guys, here’s my favorite funny cat video!
ProPer Tweet: Here’s my favorite funny cat video, humor is a great stress relief, don’t forget to take care of yourselves!

Per tweet: I’m voting for Candidate Jones!
ProPer tweet: Met volunteers at a candidate Jones rally, they are passionate and committed, reminded me of our volunteers who btw are the best!

Per tweet: Guy in line just argued with cashier who wasn’t fast enough. #jerksareeverywhere
ProPer tweet: Guy in line just argued with cashier for being slow. Reminds me to again thank our vols for being so patient when I forget to call back!

The sharing of ourselves-our humor, our love, our very humanity is a great way to connect with volunteers. And if you turn the personal (Per) into a message about them (Pro), you’ve successfully engaged the volunteers once again, which is a very proper thing to do.